Sitting president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now maintaining a very active presence in the Bicol Region. Does this show that the “turugbong na tubo” is already at work in exchange for the election of the presidential son, Datu, as a District Representative of the First District of Camarines Sur? And if so, will this be beneficial to the Bicolanos?
The idea of “turugbong na tubo” was earlier attributed to Camarines Sur’s Luis Villafuerte. It was known as surumpay na tubo or literally translated as “pipes or pipelines linked or connected with each other”. Prior to the 1980 elections, Villafuerte proposed that if somebody close to the Malacanang would be elected to the Naga City Hall, the mejoras or largesse will easily flow to the local government. To prove his point, he even staked his name to ensure the election of a Del Castillo (related to the mother of ex-Governor and Congressman Al Francis Bichara). He was not shamed, of course, and for this reason, he revived the idea in relation to the 2007 elections. Not contented on switching to and chairing Arroyo’s political party, Villafuerte even endorsed and fully supported the candidacy of Datu. In addition, he also supported (albeit not open) GMA’s favorite student and economic adviser, Joey Salceda in the latter’s bid for governorship in Albay, and rallied the support of other political stalwarts in the region like Edcel Lagman and Jose Solis.
But is the “turugbong na tubo” beneficial to the Bicolanos?
Using the economic frame, it can be said that with the turugbong na tubo, the region is now on a fast pace towards development. For instance, despite the calamities that crippled Bicolandia in the last quarter of 2006, there are now evidences to show that the region can already stand on its feet. The region also slid from being the second poorest region to the fourth rank. In addition, new programs and projects that can spur more developments are also instituted and with GMA’s every visit, something new is offered. A few weeks ago, GMA inaugurated a business process outsourcing firm in Pili, Camarines Sur, inspected the asphalt overlaying project at Sipocot, and formally opened electricity and tourism-related infrastructures. Sometime in April, she was also here in the region to grace the ceremonial activities for the roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) project in Sorsogon and then proceeded to Masbate where she spearheaded the briefing on the status of the roads connecting the Central Nautical Highway ports in the cattle country.
Political lenses, however, show that the turugbong na tubo rips off the right of the Bicolanos to be treated fair and square. What if Datu Arroyo lost? Or the people of Camarines Sur did not respect the candidacy of Villafuerte? Will the Bicolanos be ostracized again for being an “opposition country”? The possibility is not remote. During the 2004 elections, GMA lost to Fernando Poe Jr., in Sorsogon. Thus, the province was stricken off GMA’s economic map. It was only lately that Sorsogon was hitched to the development roadmap through the intercession of Congressman Solis. This is despite the laws such as the Local Government Code mandating that all local government units are entitled to a fix share of revenue from the government and that they also deserve an equal attention from the central government especially with regards development programs.
For these, it can be said that the words of columnist Luis General Jr., are still applicable even if they were written more than two decades ago. According to General, the turugbong na tubo is “contrary to the concept of the sovereignty of the people. The people should not be punished by being denied what are their due as a direct consequence of the exercise of the sovereign right of suffrage”. Analogously, the voters are reduced to dogs who are given rewards after a successful performance in an animal show.
But of course, the lenses used to view the existing situation vary. It depends on who argues and on what footing. At this juncture, though, the economic frame weighs more. Hopefully, the benefits will surely surpass the cost of political rights because otherwise, the Bicolano votes will once again be wasted and this time, due to the misconnections of the turugbong na tubo.###
(One of my latest columns in Albay Journal)